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The Icarus Hunt

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,171 ratings  ·  284 reviews
Smuggler Jordan McKell has partner Ixil, an alien whose two "ferrets" ride his shoulders and telepathically exchange simple messages. They take a job on the odd-shaped ship Icarus. But the ragtag crew was found at taverns, the secret cargo sealed tight, the employer missing, and a saboteur is aboard. After a beautiful crew member helps uncover the nature of their cargo for ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 457 pages
Published July 5th 2000 by Spectra Books (first published August 3rd 1999)
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Benjamin Espen If you liked the Thrawn trilogy, I think you will also like the Icarus Hunt. The Icarus Hunt is a mystery book set in space. You get the same excellen…moreIf you liked the Thrawn trilogy, I think you will also like the Icarus Hunt. The Icarus Hunt is a mystery book set in space. You get the same excellent characterization and attention to plot detail, but in a different universe and a different style of story. (less)

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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,171 ratings  ·  284 reviews

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Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
My friends know how fast I hopped on the Quadrail series and how enthusiastic I was about it. Zahn is one of the genre’s best world-builders. The Icarus Hunt is another showcase for his talent. I see a lot of similarities between this and Quadrail. We have our anti-hero with whom we mostly bond as we learn the reasons for his picaresque career. We have a challenge or mission that seems simple and becomes very complicated. We have a multiplicity of alien worlds, alien cultures and nefarious deale ...more
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A mystery, it just happens to be in space. I don't really have anything bad to say about this book. The characters are interesting, the premise and conflicts are fun, and you'll be trying to figure out what the heck is going on right up until the very end.

Also, Zahn's world-building is in top form in this book. I can't stress this enough. He created a whole universe, just for this book, and made it seem incredibly vast. With a couple sentences he can introduce a brand new race, social order, or
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: scifi fans
The twist at the end was totally unexpected and awesome, and I had to reread the book almost immediately with the new information. This book also has one of my all-time favorite quotes:

For a change, Lady Luck seemed to be smiling on me. Then again, maybe the fickle wench was just lulling me into a false sense of security while she reached for a rock.
Peter Tillman
2o2o reread: not as good as I recalled, but still a good book. Strong start, sags in the middle, then comes back with a bravura finish. 3.6 stars, rounded up.

2016 review: A really excellent SF mystery. Read Foomy's fine review here, --then put this one on your To-read list. Highly recommended.
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My husband and two of my sisters-in-law love science fiction. Me, not so much. The Icarus Hunt is the sci-fi book for people who don't like sci-fi, much as the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is the mystery series for people who hate mysteries.

What Timothy Zahn has created is basically a gumshoe novel based in space. His characterization is wonderful, and the plot is more than satisfying. I've recommended this book to just about everyone I know.

And, you sci-fi fans, my husband -- a cert
Bill Blume
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite writers. The Icarus Hunt provides a perfect example of why. He breaks a lot of rules, but he's got the skills to get away with it. From the first chapter, you can tell the main character Jordan McKell packs a lot of secrets. You don't get to all of those secrets in the first chapter, and he even manages to hold onto some big ones all the way to the final chapter. Hard enough to pull that off with any character in the novel, let alone the main character and with ...more
Ed [Redacted]
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Every time I read this authors name I imagine fat, old Kirk shaking his fist and yelling, "Zaaaaahhhhhn".

Anyway, I actually read this because Nathan was wondering if Zahn was similar at all to David Weber. I hadn't read any Zahn before (except the first 30 pages or so of a Star Wars novel, I just can't read Star Wars novels for some reason, can't do it.)He rec'ed this one so here we are.

The Icarus Hunt is the story of a renegade space smuggler Han Solo Jordan McKell, who is hired by a mysterious
This book was highly recommended by a friend and it was also brought up twice as a possibility for book club. Needless to say, I added it to my to-read list, and I'm really happy that I finally got around to reading it. It was a good mystery set in space and I really like Zahn's writing style. I think he's best known for the Star Wars books he's written, and I could see some of that influence in this book. The opening scene in the bar reminded me a lot of the cantina, and the main character had ...more
Jun 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
This is billed as a "space opera mystery" which sounds exciting. Action! Intrigue! Some sort of "hunt"!

Unfortunately, it doesn't really come together, despite actually having those elements. Delivering on a promise sometimes doesn't work.

Part of the problem here is that the book is too long and meandering. Mysteries tend to be taut. The Icarus Hunt could have used substantial trimming by the folks at Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Someone once said that an author's first novel should be a myste
Apr 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Johnny by: David Wilson
Shelves: science-fiction
My younger brother, David, gave me this book. As I began to read it, I quickly realized why he did so. The protagonist, Jordan McKell, is amazingly similar to certain Traveller characters that my brother has played over the years. And also, let me say without spoiling it, that I was completely fooled as to the overall motivation of said protagonist. But when all was revealed in the final chapters, I knew why my brother had enjoyed this book so much.

But before that final revelation/climax, I felt
T. K. Elliott (Tiffany)
I nearly didn't finish this. The Icarus Hunt had rather a slow start, and it took until I was about 10% of the way into the book before I cared enough about what happened to the characters to be bothered about reading on. Of course, once the story really got going, I was hooked!

This is plot-driven rather than character-driven sci-fi; if you're looking for deep, meaningful, complex characters, look elsewhere. We don't even get much depth on the main character, let alone any of the others. On the
To be fair, this was more like a 3.5 for me but, you know, Goodreads. I love a good murder mystery, and while it might stretch the bounds of believability (even for sci-fi), and the end twist was a bit much, I still enjoyed myself.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
A brother of mine turned me on to SF writer Timothy Zahn (the author of a number of Star Wars novels as well as the Conquerors' Trilogy and Dragonback series). My introduction to Zahn came via The Icarus Hunt - a fun and fast-paced space opera jaunt through the galaxy. I thoroughly enjoyed the engaging characters, witty dialog and repartee, as well as the adventure laden plot (that reads like an Agatha Christie in space along with the requisite locked room mystery and Poirot-like denouement). Go ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Timothy Zahn. He is (deservedly) best known for his Star Wars novels, which are excellent and probably his greatest works.

However he has also written several phenomenal original works, of which Icarus Hunt is my favorite.

Jordan McKell is a down on his luck independent shipper who isn't "all that independent, actually, not anymore." A small fry smuggler for an organization that bailed him out of his debts, McKell gets in further over his head when he accepts a side job to pilot
Jamie Collins
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A pretty fun read. This author is best known for his Star Wars novels, and while this is not one of them, it’s set in similar universe where one walks into a bar and finds members of a dozen alien species all nursing their beers and waiting for someone to start a fight. Also, the protagonist is a smuggler, with an alien partner, who owes big money to a big bad guy.

The plot is a version of a country house murder mystery. There’s a murder on board a spaceship, the crew are all strangers to each ot
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
- in brief: sci-fi suspense/mystery
- expansion: Jordan McKell is a small-time cargo runner who is asked to captain a ship, the Icarus, across the Orion Arm and back to Earth. He is in over his head almost at once. A crew member is murdered, a ruthless organization is after the Icarus’ mysterious cargo, and Jordan’s own past is warring with his current problems to see which can kill him first.
- my thoughts: Zahn can build a universe out of matchsticks and play-dough; this is perhaps his best, and
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, sci-fi, favorites
Holy cow! This is without doubt my favorite book. it is an intense read, with a twist that is completely unexpected.
Michael Burnam-Fink
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2017
Jordan McKell is a freelance smuggler, taking jobs in dingy spaceport bars when he's offered a contract to take a strange ship with a seal cargo of alien artifacts to Earth. When one of the crew is murdered by a saboteur, and alerts are put out for him and the ship, McKell realizes that he's stumbled into something big. The cargo of the Icarus could upend an interstellar transport monopoly, and a lot of people want to make sure that they get the benefit. It's up to McKell to figure out who to tr ...more
Ned Leffingwell
Most nerds will know Timothy Zahn as the creating of Grand Admiral Thrawn for the Star Wars expanded universe. This book is s science fiction tale taking place in Zahn's own setting. It is a noir murder mystery space opera, where a crew is thrown together and has to deal with murder and treachery will piloting a mysterious spacecraft. I got this because the kindle version was on sale for $0.99 and I was familiar with the author. It was an entertaining read. I found all of the genre elements to b ...more
Miloș Dumbraci
Aug 03, 2017 rated it did not like it
gave up after 120 pages (a quarter), because it felt like reading cartoons: fast and full of shiny colors, but completely shallow and uninteresting. Just a too cool glitzy hero kicking alien ass with amazing wit and bravado.
Might have enjoyed it at 12-13 yo.
Keri Wittenauer
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books! I’m not really a fan of science fiction, but the story draws me in every time. I’ve read this at least six or seven times and I still find interesting new details every time.
Jeff Miller
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a good story that takes some smuggler tropes and expands it into an action mystery.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
A fun mystery set in space. I was able to guess the bad guy and the big reveal ahead of time, but there were still little things that were unexpected. I was entertained, and that's really all that matters. ...more
Logan McElroy
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great worldbuilding, interesting characters. I had a great time reading this. The ending felt contrived and disappointing, but that doesn’t take away from everything that came before.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Well that was fun.
Started out as a pretty typical sci-fi adventure with all the trimmings - sleazy spaceport bar, down on luck spacer who is a reluctant smuggler and mostly decent at heart, variety of aliens, extensive criminal organisations, charismatic alien sidekick. All good standard fare.
Then the plot got more complex, three very good twists I didn't see coming. Some very cool tech.
Apr 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Reread. The last two paragraphs are really random and a terrible way to end the book (I’d much rather have a hint at what’s next for Jordan and Ixil), but otherwise this is a super fun space caper.
A pretty fun and fast-paced murder mystery/space chase thriller.

The galaxy of the book is populated with not-very-alien aliens, much like Star Wars. But as much as I prefer biologically/behaviourally unique aliens in science fiction, the relative samey-ness of the world-building didn't really bother me, as the setting is really just an inconsequential backdrop for Zahn's mystery plot.

I would have liked a little more character development, particularly for Ixil, who was the coolest and best chara
Luke Zwanziger
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is a nice sci-fi read without too many aliens, world jumping and confusion. It almost harkens back to the space adventure genre with a bit of classic mystery thrown in. The book revolves around a small smuggling crew, smuggling an unknown cargo across the universe. But suddenly everyone is hunting them down, and they don't know why.

The book does a good job at keeping you interested, feeding you enough info via the characters as they make discoveries about their unknown cargo. There we
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Don't expect anything exceptional here, but still a good read.

As a science fiction novel, this is good stuff. Zahn does a great job with the setting and has a world that feels alive. Characters are pretty good, some of the relationships are streched a bit, but he makes up for it other ways. The plot was a bit weak, but that is explained by...

As a mystery novel, this was not really good. I could tell hew as really trying hard to setup some classic mystery plot threads, but man, they were either t
Jamie Rich
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Icarus Hunt (Mass Market Paperback) by Timothy Zahn

Hmmm... What a fun read! It's a SciFi, murder mystery, whodunit, political thriller. With lots of characters who make for an entertaining read. Our erstwhile heroes are some rather clumsy smugglers, who stumble into a trading mission that upsets the balance of economic and geographic powers that be.
Toss in some truly bad baddies, and some very twisted plot lines, and scratch you head trying to figure it all out. Oh, and an ending that was
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Timothy Zahn attended Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1973. He then moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and achieved an M.S. degree in physics in 1975. While he was pursuing a doctorate in physics, his adviser became ill and died. Zahn never completed the doctorate. In 1975 he had begun writing science fiction as a hobby, and he bec ...more

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